Yes, it’s me again, bursting all the balloons and shattering all the dreams of the terminally lazy and hopelessly deluded – I don’t mean to be rude to anyone there, but it still amazes me that some language learners just don’t get it.

Today I was in a bookshop in town where I saw books promising “English in 30 lessons” claiming that people can learn a language, English in this case, from a book, in just 30 lessons.

I guess most of are lured by this clearly false claim, mostly out of desperation – but the truth of the matter, kids, is it ain’t gonna work.

There is a way to learn a language however, which does work, which includes logic, as there are four skills in language learning, we need to use them all:





We could add others, but they aren’t strictly skills … or are they, that of enjoyment, effort, frequency of contact with the target language, the desire and ability to provoke contacts with the language and  effort (have I already mentioned that one?)

Curiously, learners often go about language learning in a way that in no way mimics (now there’s a good idea) the way in which they acquire their native language, effectively turning the fours skills on their heads.

Traditional language learning ‘teaches’ writing but not ‘How’ to listen.

Reading before learners are able to hear the sounds in a foreign language, grammar as a science (much like linguists may go about it) and a skill that is usually reserved for competent language users in the guise of translating.

Yeah, you don’t believe all of this, but I kid you not – it happens right under our eyes.

Back to the book (30 lessons, blah, blah) – read it, learn the grammar as you never knew your own – well at least not the labels to say which tense is which – but you learnt how to use the language before being able to cut it up and describe it in linguistic terms. So, if we believe these types of books, speaking and listening are auxilliary acts, almost ‘nice to have’ but not essential.

It’s not a big worry – I am still able to sleep at night, but I do wish people would come clean and put a health warning on these types of ‘pie-in-the-sky’ claims.

If you would like to do a bit of English, there is a project just launched called ‘English Daily’ where the idea is that learners ‘force’ themselves to use or get into some form of contact with the language every day – yes Every day for a year (365 or 366 days).

Have a look at the blog, it’s simple, quick and you spend as much time as you like on it – another aspect is that we connect our blogs and can communicate with each other in the project, helping each other out, encouraging, motivating and asking questions, whilst getting to know each other.

There is no shortcut, get involved (if you would like to and can stand 366 days of English) …


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